Hector Qirko Band to perform at Brackins

Steve Wildsmith, Maryville Daily Times, November 18, 2005

Maybe they should organize a battle of the bands at the old Longbranch Saloon, a face-off between two of Knoxville's oldest electric outfits -- Smokin' Dave and the Premo Dopes and the Hector Qirko Band.

Because of the infrequency of Smokin' Dave performances, Qirko reckons his group is entitled to its claim of being ``the longest running electric band in Knoxville.'' In fact, the group celebrated its 20th anniversary this year, an eternity by local band standards where members and groups come and go.

``We only claim that because Smokin' Dave only plays occasionally now, and because we've been going for 20 years, if we're not the longest-running electric band, then we're one of them,'' Qirko told The Daily Times this week with a chuckle. ``I figure we're in it for the long haul.''

Certainly, the case can be made that Qirko is in the local scene for the long haul. In addition to fronting his own band, he's the partner of local singer-songwriter R.B. Morris and a member of roots-music outfit the Lonesome Coyotes. He's an honorary member of the Suns of Phere (the backing band for Smokin' Dave front guy Todd Steed) and a frequent collaborator of other musicians throughout East Tennessee.

Ironically, Qirko's love of American music was born abroad. Qirko's father was a businessman who worked in the international division of a large corporation, so every couple of years during Qirko's childhood, the family moved from one Latin American country to another. As a result, Qirko fell in love with American rock `n' roll from a distance, cobbling together a collection of albums from friends who brought them back from visits to the States.

He moved to Chicago to attend college, and it was there he fell in love with the blues scene and met the man who would change the direction of his career -- Lonnie Baker Brooks. He performed with Brooks as the blues man's rhythm and slide guitarist for roughly four years, and from Brooks, he also learned the business end of music. Once he moved to Knoxville, Qirko switched gears and began learning the ropes of country music while making a name for himself playing around Knoxville. It was then that he met Morris.

In the early 1990s, they played together as R.B. Morris and the Irregulars, and over the last eight years, they've billed themselves as R.B. Morris and Hector Qirko. In addition, throughout the late 1970s and early 1980s, he played guitar for The Lonesome Coyotes, a Western swing/folk/country rock outfit that ruled the Cumberland Avenue ``Strip'' for years. The group was the house band for the Budweiser pavilion at the 1982 World's Fair before parting ways. (The band reunited in 2002 and has been back together on an intermittent basis ever since.)

From that point, Qirko got hooked up playing music for The Nashville Network's various TV shows, an experience that taught him even more about country and roots music. Currently an assistant professor of anthropology at the University of Tennessee, he's working on the long-developing fifth album by the Hector Qirko Band.

``We've finished the tracks for a new record, but we still have some questions about which ones to keep and which ones to use, so we put many of them up on the Web site, where people can download and listen to them and give us their opinions, too,'' he said.

``It's kind of a work-in-progress, and it's kind of a return to our roots, too. The last album was more Latin-based, and this one is a bit more of a return to some blues-based material. We're experimenting with styles as usual, but it'll be more of a blues-based kind of thing.''

A live Hector Qirko Band show is as challenging for the members to play as it is dazzling for the audience. With so many years under their belts, the members have hundreds of songs to choose from, so the setlist remains fluid, he said.

``We'll sort of decide on certain songs we'd like to touch on and play for particular gigs, and then just let the rest come to us as we're playing,'' he said. ``Because we're playing at Brackins, which is such a great blues club, we're going to emphasize a lot of blues, which really is the basis of what we do.''

Fans who can't make it to Brackins tonight can catch Qirko on Nov. 26 at The Laurel Theatre in Knoxville's Fort Sanders neighborhood, where he'll perform with the Lonesome Coyotes; and on Dec. 2, when he plays with Morris as part of the Knoxville Museum of Art's ``Alive After Five'' concert series.